Ostrich Farming in Hawaii

Would you believe that an ostrich farm operated in the middle of Kapiolani Park? In June 1890, three ostriches peered out of their cargo box in a Hawaii harbor, not aware that they would get a lot of attention and media coverage throughout their lives.

In the 1890s, Kaimuki was a sparsely populated, relatively undeveloped area. If you were to walk on its main dirt road, you would see the domed semaphore station with the lone watchmen, cattle grazing at Paul Isenberg’ ranch, and ostriches roaming around Dr. Georges Phillipe Trousseau’s farm in Kapiolani Park. He bought about 1,000 acres of land from the Lunalilo estate to start the farm, and the ostriches became an attraction as people went to the park to see them.

Born and raised in Paris, France, Dr. Trousseau immigrated to Hawaii in 1872 after spending time in Australia and New Zealand. Perhaps because of his father’s fame, the son of a renowned physician quickly became a member of the Board of Health, the port physician, the royal physician, and a friend to several monarchs. Dr. Trousseau’s previous ventures included managing a sheep ranch producing wool on the highlands of western Big Island and Pacific Sugar Mill in Kukuihaele, Big Island.
The ostriches were three of the fifty-two that Mr. E. Cawston purchased on the east coast of Africa in 1887 at $75 each. He then sent them 1,000 miles up the coast to Durban, Africa, instead of paying the $500 export duty for each of them. There, Cawston sailed the ostriches to Galveston, Texas, and then had special cars transport them to Los Angeles to Norwalk Farm. The journey to San Francisco cost $250 each bird. From there, the three birds sailed to Hawaii, feeding on chopped potatoes and rocks.

Two weeks later after the ostriches’ arrival in Hawaii, Mrs. S. G. Wilder reported to Dr. Trousseau that one of the hens laid an egg. He then said he would name the chick after Mrs. Wilder as “Kinau.”

Unfortunately, the other hen did not recover from the journey and appeared to be approaching death.

Not discouraged, two months later, Dr. Trousseau obtained three California-bred birds from San Diego Farm, and they adapted well to Hawaii’s tropical climate and environment.Next year, Dr. Trousseau hired his nephew, Captain Jean “John” Morriseau, to assist with the ostrich farm as he was on leave from the French Army. He would step into the paddock and when the birds heard his whistle, they came to him.

An ostrich laid twenty-three eggs including nineteen fertile eggs, but Dr. Trousseau could not get them to hatch, whether he put the eggs in the incubator or had the ostriches sit on them. The ostrich’s paddock was close to the highway, and Dr. Trousseau concluded that the stress that the ostrich felt from visiting people might have hindered the eggs from hatching.

After several ostriches laid eggs that did not hatch, one of the California-bred hens laid forty-four eggs, and nineteen of them hatched. The young ostriches eventually totaled to about thirty-five, and the Hawaiian Gazette reports they were “doing well.”Dr. Trousseau sold the the feathers to hat makers in London. He would start plucking the feathers from the birds at eight months old, except for the quill feathers, which Dr. Trousseau cut every six months.

The Hawaiian Gazette describes the adult ostriches’ daily routine of sitting on the eggs:
“…they go about it in the most business-like manner, the male and female each having their regular office hours, the male going on the next at 5 p.m. and remaining until 10 a.m., when his place is taken by the hen, the male bird doing most of the setting.”

The farm has faced challenges including the prolonged dry weather, issues with the irrigation facilities, and the resulting death of the farm’s grass. However, eventually Dr. Trousseau obtained an aermotor (a windmill powered by wind to pump water) to water the grass, which eventually grew “very nicely.”

In the beginning of November 1891, the French Army called Morisseau back into duty. Dr. Trousseau put the farm up for sale including two pairs of breeding ostriches, about 35 young ostriches, many purebred brown leghorn, a horse, the property, furniture, agricultural machinery, an express wagon, and a cart.

Eventually, businessman Paul Isenberg, who owned a cattle ranch in the area, purchased the farm. Today, Trousseau’s legacy lives on as a street named after him where the farm used to be: Trousseau Street .

– Alice Kim

Sources

“Local and General”
The Hawaiian gazette., July 01, 1890, Page 7, Image 7
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83025121/1890-07-01/ed-1/seq-7/

“A large number of people were out at the Park yesterday taking a look at the ostriches”
“Local and General”
The Hawaiian gazette., November 11, 1890, Page 9, Image 12
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83025121/1890-11-11/ed-1/seq-12/

“Those Ostriches”
The Hawaiian gazette., July 01, 1890, Page 10, Image 10
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83025121/1890-07-01/ed-1/seq-10/

“Ostrich Egg Laid”
The Daily bulletin., July 25, 1890, Image 3
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82016412/1890-07-25/ed-1/seq-3/

“Three more ostriches arrived on the Australia for Dr. Trousseau”

“Local and General”
The Hawaiian gazette., September 23, 1890, Page 9, Image 9
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83025121/1890-09-23/ed-1/seq-9/

“An Ostrich Farm: Dr. George Trousseau’s Experiment Proves Success”
The Hawaiian gazette., June 23, 1891, Page 3, Image 3
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83025121/1891-06-23/ed-1/seq-3/

Farm for sale (ad)
The Daily bulletin., January 19, 1892, Image 1
http://chroniclingamerica.com/lccn/sn82016412/1892-01-19/ed-1/seq-1/

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